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Mr. Fabricant: I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has been reading too many Edwina Currie novels, as he is talking about immorality in the House of Commons. I am not getting commission from Edwina Currie for making that remark.
Has the hon. Gentleman seriously considered the constitutional issues raised by his amendment? He will be aware that the Palace of Westminster is a royal palace. Would not his amendment result in this being the first time that civil and criminal legislation has applied to a royal palace? Indeed, he will be aware that people cannot be murdered in a royal palace: they must be removed outside and then be declared dead. Is he not opening a can of worms that could create a constitutional crisis, possibly resulting in--
As ever, the hon. Member for Lichfield makes an interesting point. He asked whether I had examined the constitutional issues arising from my amendment. Indeed, I have. I refer him to a case heard on 12, 13 and 14 December 1934, which involved the King, Sir R. F. Graham-Campbell and others, and was brought by Mr. Alan Patrick Herbert. On 17 May 1934, the applicant laid two informations at Bow Street police court and made applications for summonses against 15 named Members of Parliament, who were members of the King's Kitchen Committee of the House of Commons.
In one of those informations, the applicant stated that, on 10 April 1934, after listening to Committee proceedings on a certain Bill at the House of Commons, he and a friend visited a refreshment bar at 1.15 pm and were supplied with a glass of lager beer and a glass of gin and mixed vermouth. In the second information, the applicant stated that, at about 6.30 pm on the same day, he visited the House of Commons with another friend. They were proceeding to a refreshment bar when they met a Member of Parliament, who accompanied them there, where they were joined by a fourth person. The Member of Parliament ordered a round of drinks--which is noteworthy in itself--for the four and, even more notably, paid for them.
The chief metropolitan magistrate, Sir Rollo Frederick Graham-Campbell, before whom the applications came, held that, assuming that an offence may have been committed, Members of Parliament carrying out duties entrusted to them by the House, and under its control in a manner long practised and approved by it, and within its precincts, were not amenable to the court's jurisdiction, but were protected by the privileges of the House and were answerable only to the House of which they were Members.
Mr. Maclean: I have not intervened until now because the hon. Gentleman is giving a fascinating exposition of the constitutional question. Indeed, I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) asked about that important matter. I merely wish to tell the hon. Gentleman how pleased I am that his amendment relates to the House of Commons, not the other place, which is the first time that the Labour party has recognised the importance of allowing hereditary peers to continue administering alcohol to young people and their families in a trustworthy way in accordance with centuries-old tradition. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not be tempted to extend his amendment to include the whole Palace of Westminster.
I return to the constitutional implications that my amendment would have in seeking to regulate the provision of alcohol in the House of Commons. It is clear that the sale of liquor in the precincts of the House falls within the House's internal affairs, which it, and it alone, is privileged to manage. The privileges of the House of Commons have never been defined and must be ascertained from what has been recorded as having been done by the House. According to Blackstone, one of the greatest authorities on our constitution, the privileges of Parliament are large and indefinite, and courts of law cannot determine the privileges of the High Court of Parliament. Blackstone's commentary, volume i, page 164, states that the privileges
Mr. Gardiner: No, I must disagree with my hon. Friend. I accept willingly that a person committing an ordinary felony or misdemeanour, even on the very steps of the Speaker's Chair, would not be protected by the privileges of the House and would be amenable to the jurisdiction of criminal courts. That, however, is merely because the House has never claimed the right to adjudicate on such matters.
Although there are more proper points to be considered on how the amendment would affect the rights and privileges of hon. Members, I cannot in all conscience believe that hon. Members are so fastidious in guarding their privileges that they would not wish to apply the provisions of this estimable Bill to the House of Commons, as if it were licensed premises, in the sale, provision, supply and delivery of alcohol to those under the age of 18. That would mean that the law that we seek to impose throughout the country to protect minors from the dangers of alcohol would not be enforced in the confines of Parliament.
Mr. Maclean: The hon. Gentleman has been most courteous in taking interventions. One concern that I have about his amendment is how it would affect situations in which we are asked by charitable organisations in our constituencies--and other organisations not so charitable, such as party bodies--to provide a bottle of intoxicating liquor for a raffle or tombola prize. If in those circumstances a Member of Parliament supplied a bottle of House of Commons whisky and the winning ticket was bought by a minor, would there not be a danger of the Member falling foul of proposed new section 169F--delivery of intoxicating liquor to a person under 18--of the licensing Act 1964? I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman may not be able to respond to that, but I hope that, before his winding-up speech, the Minister will have a full briefing on that point from those who are specially qualified to give him that information.